Monsey-based David Romand is an interesting story.
The bearded, impressive looking fellow grew up in the Los Angeles area and started following baseball seriously in 1959, the year the Dodgers won the World Series with Jewish players Sandy Koufax and brothers Larry and Norm Sherry.
David played ball well at several positions. His grandparents thought he might have the potential to be a Jewish major leaguer and contacted David’s great-uncle Moses Solomon, who played for the New York Giants in 1923.
“He sent some clippings of his days as a pro baseball player and encouraged me to play ball but not neglect my studies,” David related. “I discovered that my uncle had been an excellent hitter, having a sensational 1923 minor league season with 49 home runs and a terrific .421 batting average. I also learned he was nicknamed the ‘Rabbi of Swat’ by the New York press.”
Playing right field for the New York Giants, Solomon made his major league debut on September 30, 1923. His first hit was a double that scored future Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch, known as the “Fordham Flash.”
Solomon collected three hits in his two big league games for a .375 batting average, and legendary manager John McGraw thought he had found the ticket to lure Jewish fans to the Polo Grounds. The Giants were trying to take the spotlight away from the Yankees, who’d opened Yankee Stadium that year and had the “Sultan of Swat,” Babe Ruth.
Solomon wasn’t eligible to play in the World Series for the Giants because he joined the club too late in the season. But the fiery McGraw insisted he stay with the team even though he couldn’t play and wouldn’t collect any pay.
“If you leave,” McGraw threatened, “you will not return to the Giants.” Solomon had an offer to play pro football in Ohio and decided to tackle the paycheck. McGraw made good on his threat and sold Solomon’s contract to Toledo of the American Association. While Solomon may have been a hitter of note, his defensive skills in the outfield left much to be desired. He would have been perfectly suited for the role of designated hitter when the American League adopted the DH rule 50 years later.
Solomon, a New York native, dreidled around the minor leagues for the next five years and dabbled in football after the baseball season ended. He saw the potential of the Miami area and decided it would be his base. He became a major building contractor.
While David was impressed with his great-uncle’s past, he was working on his own life and future path.
“After college at UCLA I volunteered to work on a kibbutz in Israel for six months prior to going to graduate school,” David recalled. “However, I found my way into Yeshiva Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem near the end of my kibbutz stint.”
There David met Rabbi Nota Schiller.
“He joined one of our Friday afternoon pickup softball games at the Pomerantz field across from the yeshiva,” David told me. “He hit a humongous home run that was the longest any of us had seen hit until then. A few weeks later I hit a shot that some said went even farther than Reb Nota’s.
“Many years later, at an alumni gathering with Reb Nota, I reminisced about our home runs and told the crowd I honestly did not know which home run went further, but that Reb Nota hit his wearing a three-piece rabbinic suit. He gets my vote as a 1960s-‘70s ‘Rabbi of Swat.’ “